Petticoat Lane: How not to run a street market

East End pitches: Lib Dems lambasted for rigging policy to favour their own interests in famous trading area

JAMES CUSICK

The conduct of councillors and town-hall officials responsible for running the world-famous street markets of Petticoat Lane and Brick Lane in the East End of London was yesterday criticised as "disturbing" and "cavalier" in a forceful report by the District Auditor.

Kash Pandya described a "catalogue of unacceptable conduct" which led to a disregard for rules and procedures in the London borough of Tower Hamlets.

It was "an object lesson for members on how not to exercise their roles", said Mr Pandya in his 80-page report into the running of the markets.

Over three years Mr Pandya investigated how the then Liberal Democrat- run council had managed to turn a pounds 300,000 surplus on its market business in 1989 into a deficit of pounds 1.5m by March 1994.

Although highly critical of how the borough ran its market business, how it lost income from licensed pitches and how it did nothing about "illegal" sub-letting of pitches, Mr Pandya reserved his strongest criticism for how councillors directly involved in street trading manipulated council policy in their own financial interest.

Considering the lucrative business of sub-letting some of the council's 7,000 pitches - mainly located in the Bethnal Green area - Mr Pandya states this "unlawful" trade exists and can only exist "with the knowledge of some council officers".

The auditor looked at the business activities of three named councillors. Betty Wright, elected as a Liberal Democrat councillor in May 1990, was an unlicensed trader working from a sub-let pitch. After her election she was ordered to stop but continued.

At the time of her election the council was revoking the licence. Mr Pandya's report refers to "documentary evidence" which showed certain councillors applying pressure on council officers not to proceed with revocation which would have pushed Mrs Wright out of business. The report states: "The role played by some members, in particular Councillors Wright, John Snooks and Jeremy Shaw during this period gives me cause for considerable concern."

Although Mrs Wright claims never to have traded from the pitch, Mr Pandya says the roles played by Mr Snooks (then chairman of the borough's street trading panel) and that of Mr Shaw were "disturbing".

However, Mr Pandya says the evidence falls short of showing "wilful misconduct" and persuaded him not to take the matter to the criminal courts and seek the recovery of lost revenue by surcharging the councillors.

In an investigation in 1992 by John Hendy QC of the Crown Prosecution Service also concluded that there was "insufficient evidence"to proceed.

Mr Pandya's investigation into the pounds 1m deficit on the street trading account found that charges which the council listed for such services as refuse collection were irregular and "outwith the council's statutory powers".

Answering the report's criticisms that Tower Hamlets had operated "totally ineffective budgetary control procedures", a council source yesterday said that while the report had been critical of individuals there had also been criticism of "accounting methods" which put money from street trading into the council's account - helping to reduce the borough's rates.

Yesterday, Tower Hamlets accepted that the handling of street markets during 1989-92 was "inadequate". It will discuss the report "as a matter of urgency" in the near future.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?